Author Topic: The Danger of Verb Coins!  (Read 3304 times)

The Danger of Verb Coins!
« on: 24 Jun 2018, 23:42 »
This is making me worry, my current project uses the verb coin. I didn't realise there was so much dislike for it. But I would struggle to replace it even if I decided to change it to something else.

I was planning on having a text box pop up explaining how to use it, at least.
« Last Edit: 27 Jun 2018, 19:46 by Snarky »

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Re: The Danger of Verb Coins!
« Reply #1 on: 25 Jun 2018, 15:47 »
I don't see anything wrong with verbcoins at all. If done right, they are pretty much self-explanatory and work pretty well on touch devices. The only problem is that the verbcoin implementation that ships with AGS is totally f*ed up. The verbcoin should open directly on left-button click. Maybe the template should be either fixed or removed from the project at all.

This is making me worry, my current project uses the verb coin. I didn't realise there was so much dislike for it. But I would struggle to replace it even if I decided to change it to something else.
Maybe you can just change the way the GUI opens i.e. make it appear immediately on left click and not only after holding down?

As for this topic, I can see some interest in a discussion regarding interface design. So if the mods would like to change the topic or something, I'd be down with that.
You can rename it, I can split the topic or we can start a completely new topic for interface design on the board.
« Last Edit: 25 Jun 2018, 15:50 by cat »

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Re: The Danger of Verb Coins!
« Reply #2 on: 25 Jun 2018, 16:05 »
The Verbcoins in CMI and Full Throttle all required you to hold down the left mouse button for a period of time. If the coin appears instantly, how does left clicking to walk work?

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Re: The Danger of Verb Coins!
« Reply #3 on: 25 Jun 2018, 16:09 »
Click somewhere where no hotspot is? Just the same as with a single click interface. Click on a hotspot -> a verbcoin is opened/an action is performed directly vs. click somewhere else -> walk there. I don't see any difference here.

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Re: The Danger of Verb Coins!
« Reply #4 on: 26 Jun 2018, 12:27 »
Well, this proves what I've always said: verb coins are a terrible UI and should never be used! 8-)
The Verb Coin is not a terrible UI. What makes it terrible in most cases, is having to hold in the left mouse button to make it appear. It should appear as soon as you click on a hotspot.
If that was the case here, everyone would have figured out the system as soon as they tried to click on something. Since it's quite literally a single-click system with more variety.

If you truly think that Verb Coins are terrible, then you must hate the pop-up menus on windows, which appear every time you right click on something. Since other than the buttons being reversed (and instead of the choice of buttons being context sensitive, the actions the buttons do are context sensitive instead), they're basically the exact same thing.
You click on something, a list of actions you can do with it appears in a menu, you click on one of those, that action is executed.


This is making me worry, my current project uses the verb coin. I didn't realise there was so much dislike for it. But I would struggle to replace it even if I decided to change it to something else.

I was planning on having a text box pop up explaining how to use it, at least.
Don't worry about it too much. This is a forum for Adventure Game enthusiasts. We're all a bit elitist when it comes down to the simple things.
Just make sure that the verb coin comes on whenever you click on a hotspot, don't make people hold the left mouse button like on CoMI or Full Throttle.

Also, a tutorial never hurts. You can easily put in an extra room, which includes detailed instructions on how to complete the very simple puzzle in it. The tutorial could be something as simple as picking something up, looking at it, talking to someone about what you just looked at, combining the item you picked up with the item you got from the guy when you told him what the item looked like, and using that combined item on a slot in the background. The tutorial could even be optional, with players being given the option as soon as they start a new game.
I actually recommend a tutorial like that for the left-click right-click interface as well, to force people to use that damned right mouse button.
« Last Edit: 26 Jun 2018, 12:46 by Danvzare »

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Re: The Danger of Verb Coins!
« Reply #5 on: 26 Jun 2018, 13:25 »
The Verb Coin is not a terrible UI. What makes it terrible in most cases, is having to hold in the left mouse button to make it appear.

Having to hold down a button makes it particularly terrible, but it's not a good UI even aside from that. (We've had this discussion many times before.)

Quote
If you truly think that Verb Coins are terrible, then you must hate the pop-up menus on windows, which appear every time you right click on something. Since other than the buttons being reversed (and instead of the choice of buttons being context sensitive, the actions the buttons do are context sensitive instead), they're basically the exact same thing.
You click on something, a list of actions you can do with it appears in a menu, you click on one of those, that action is executed.

Relying on context menus for essential functionality is very rarely a good idea. (An application where you had to right-click to bring up a context menu for everything you wanted to do would probably be a terrible UI, too.) As shortcuts they can be fine.

But also, a game is not an operating system, and verb coins are significantly different from context menus (they typically take up far more screen space, for example, and usually cover up the thing you clicked on).

Re: The Danger of Verb Coins!
« Reply #6 on: 26 Jun 2018, 14:10 »
I'd like to have the mouse left click straight away to bring up the verb coin but I don't know what I'm looking at in the default verb coin script. I sped up the time required to bring it up at least.

Thanks for the advice, however I have got a really easy starting room to put a short tutorial in. It's short enough that it doesn't really need a skip option. :)

Indeed I was sure to make my verb coin not too large, it only has look and interact, with right click to bring up the inventory with save and load etc on it. I also made the verb coin semi transparent, so Snarky should be somewhat happy lol.

Danvzare

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Re: The Danger of Verb Coins!
« Reply #7 on: 26 Jun 2018, 15:06 »
Relying on context menus for essential functionality is very rarely a good idea. (An application where you had to right-click to bring up a context menu for everything you wanted to do would probably be a terrible UI, too.) As shortcuts they can be fine.
Yeah, you're right, relying on menus for essential functionality is a terrible idea, and results in some of the worst UI desicisons ever.
That's why we use it for everything. Including Real Time Strategy games (click on a building and a list of options of what you can build with a building appear at the side), MMORPGS (I don't even need to mention the number of menus you'll get from clicking one thing on World of Warcraft), and The Sims (which has been using a context menu since the first game).

But yeah, you're right. You can't rely on menus for basic gameplay. It's been tried and tested too many times, and proven to work each and every time. Which just goes to prove that it not only doesn't work for Adventure Games, but games in general. :~(

They typically take up far more screen space, for example, and usually cover up the thing you clicked on.
Yeah, because the verb coins ALWAYS has to be huge. And we can't go covering up the things we clicked on, because otherwise we'll have no idea what we clicked on with our ultra short memories! And as we all know, it's utterly impossible to place a verb coin slightly off center. It always has to go directly over the thing you clicked on. Yep, there's just no way to solve any of the complaints you have with verb coins. And they're definitely 100% valid complaints

I suppose you're right, verb coins are irredeemably terrible. :~(
« Last Edit: 26 Jun 2018, 15:11 by Danvzare »

Re: The Danger of Verb Coins!
« Reply #8 on: 26 Jun 2018, 15:42 »
Bwahahaha!!
« Last Edit: 26 Jun 2018, 15:44 by ManicMatt »

Re: The Danger of Verb Coins!
« Reply #9 on: 26 Jun 2018, 15:54 »
verb coins are significantly different from context menus (they typically take up far more screen space, for example, and usually cover up the thing you clicked on).

Have a look at the screenshot below. It's straight from Windows Word, I simply highlighted some words and right-clicked on them. It's obvious that it does take up a large chunk of screen space and that it does partially cover the thing you click on. It's just that we have become so used to these effects in years of Windows usage that we've stopped wondering about them. Since it is easy to make a context menu go away, we don't seem to mind the covered space.



Here's a verb coin of Netherworld, the game that started this discussion. I think that the covering aspect is comparable.



I might be wrong, but to me it seems that context menus have become even more prevalent lately than they used to be. For instance, call up a browser such as the Internet Explorer or Edge.  The standard way of "opening in another tab", "Save destination" and so on is the context menu.  There used to be top-down menus etc., too, but those seem to have fallen out of fashion.
« Last Edit: 26 Jun 2018, 16:24 by fernewelten »

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Re: The Danger of Verb Coins!
« Reply #10 on: 26 Jun 2018, 16:07 »
That screenshot reminds me of another thing I dislike about verbcoins specifically used by Windows: Placement isn't always consistent, so you can't automatically move your mouse to the option you want. As an example, if I want to select a bunch of files one at at a time to rename them, once I get to the end of the screen, rightclicking pop up the menu in a different place than usual, so your flow is disturbed.

So yeah, verbcoins are a horrible interface, and anyone who uses them should be locked up in a room with a slider puzzle lock that's broken.
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Re: The Danger of Verb Coins!
« Reply #11 on: 26 Jun 2018, 16:14 »
But you'd use hotkeys for things you often use (like cut, copy, paste..). Otherwise it would drive you crazy!

I'm not a fan of verb coins either, but they can be done in a way that isn't frustrating. It really depends, in some games I find them quite annoying, in others I don't care too much. Then again, I haven't played many games that use the verb coin, and I think there's a reason why they're not the preferred design choice.

Re: The Danger of Verb Coins!
« Reply #12 on: 26 Jun 2018, 17:37 »
To return to the matter at hand:

The discussion started out when people (seemingly, _a lot_ of people) didn't even find the verbcoin: The act of holding down the mouse button was so counter-intuitive to them that it wasn't something they would even try out.

That's a matter of custom. If you construct a car where you have pull up the gas pedal in order to brake, this is going to lead to trouble. People just won't be expecting that - no matter how “logical” or “functional” it might be. You might document it in the user manual - but many drivers don't take the time to read user manuals before they turn the key.

The thing that makes this particularly diffcult is that several ”customs” have come up by now. For instance, when you switch from Windows to, say, Gnome, you end up tearing your hair because a lot of clicks and keystrokes that have become second nature to you just don't work the way you expect them to.

By now, operating systems have prescribed certain functionality with certain keystrokes or mouse clicks for decades. For instance, on a Windwos system, CTRL-C is prescribed to be "cut", CTRL-P is prescribed to be "print", a right-click is prescribed to call up a context menu and ALT is prescribed to call up the top-down menu. This has always made life hard for people that code software for several different operating systems such as Inkscape - or Emacs. (Emacs is a powerful public-domain text editor. In Emacs, CTRL-C is a sort of lead-in character combination and this is constantly very jarring to a Windows user.)

This is highly relevant here: We have clashes of tradition. Old gamers will expect mouse clicks to work “just as they do with LucasArts” or “just as in BASS” etc., but thes games predate the prescriptions that have come up with modern operating systems. Very new newcomers might have grown up with touch devices so much that they aren't even comfortable with a right mouse button. They will expect games to behave "the iPhone way" or "the Android way", where others will (still) expect "the Windows way".

How do we get the most people abord? How do we avoid alienating our target group? The answer will depend on that target group, so slim chances for an one-fits-all solution.

« Last Edit: 26 Jun 2018, 17:44 by fernewelten »

Re: The Danger of Verb Coins!
« Reply #13 on: 26 Jun 2018, 18:15 »
From a practical point of view, I don't mind at all using a verbcoin interface when it is provided, but I wouldn't currently it in my own projects. The reason is, a verbcoin makes the most sense when there are a lot of options: If you only offer LOOK and INTERACT, you could simply assign the one to the left mouse button and the other to the right mouse button and make away with the verbcoin.

But the trouble is, a lot of options means a lot of programming and wasted energy. It's the same as with lots of objects that can be picked up: You waste huge amounts of time coding what happens when the player uses an apple core on a passport, an apple core on a kitchen faucet, an apple core on a jar of fresh milk and an apple core on the door leading to the atomic power plant.

In the same way, having "push" and "pull" options means coding how you "push" an apple core, "pull" an apple core, "push" a rose bush, "pull" a rose bush, "push" a whiff of bad air, "pull" a whiff of bad air, and so on. Currently, I can't be assed to. But it's no dogma, I might change my mind when the right project idea comes along.

Re: The Danger of Verb Coins!
« Reply #14 on: 26 Jun 2018, 19:17 »
i don't want to have right click for my alternate action because then i have to have an onscreen icon for the inventory, and I like my minimum screen litter when walking around.

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Re: The Danger of Verb Coins!
« Reply #15 on: 26 Jun 2018, 20:09 »
The discussion started out when people (seemingly, _a lot_ of people) didn't even find the verbcoin: The act of holding down the mouse button was so counter-intuitive to them that it wasn't something they would even try out.

That's a matter of custom.

True to an extent, but that doesn't make the 2 options equal. People who expect to hold down the mouse button will still figure out clicking, but people who expect to click will not necessarily figure out holding the button. That makes the clicking verb-coin superior in my view.

As for the verb-coin itself, I think verb-coin offers some advantages over other multi-verb interfaces. You don't need to move the mouse all over to the bottom of the screen like the lucas arts 9-verb, or to the top of the screen like sierra (or right click a billion times). And verb-coin can contextually disable some of the options, so I won't have "push" or "pull" enabled for the apple core, so it can actually reduce the number of interactions you write, compared to the standard 9-verbs (or, realistically, reducing the number of clicks the player tries, as the developer probably just uses a lot of default responses in 9-verbs).
That's of course, presuming you do have a lot of verbs.
However, if you only have 3 verbs like in the picture above, then it makes a whole lot of sense to just merge talk and interact together and have the 2-click interface, which is simpler and reduces the number of clicks the player needs to make.

I think where verb-coin can truly shine, theoretically at least, is if the actions are completely contextual and dynamic. Meaning that if you have a bible in your inventory and then use the bible on the priest you'll be offered a menu with "give bible to priest", "ask priest about favorite character from the bible", and "knock over priest with bible". This gives you true expressiveness, equal in power only to the text parser, but without needing to guess what was the designer thinking.
I say theoretically, though, because I don't recall seeing any adventure game that actually has a fully dynamic context menu.

People don't even understand a two-click interface any more. I swear some people played through The Fowl Fleet without right clicking on anything (even though it tells you how to do it), and then complained that the puzzles didn't make sense.

Kids today!
It's even worse. I've seen youtubers playing "9 Months In" and not right clicking (and missing vital hints). Youtubers! Those people have played their share of games yet still it didn't even cross their minds that this was an option.
That's why when I wrote "That Damn Dog" I added a timer and if the player does not right click after some time has passed I show a message box with "Did you know? You can right click on stuff". No idea if that worked, though.

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Re: The Danger of Verb Coins!
« Reply #16 on: 26 Jun 2018, 20:54 »
That's why when I wrote "That Damn Dog" I added a timer and if the player does not right click after some time has passed I show a message box with "Did you know? You can right click on stuff". No idea if that worked, though.

In the Fowl Fleet, you have to right click to solve the tutorial puzzle at the start. Players do it, and then never right click again, I'm sure of it. I wrote SO MANY lines that I'm sure at least 1 reviewer (who found the puzzles incomprehensible) never heard.

Click somewhere where no hotspot is? Just the same as with a single click interface. Click on a hotspot -> a verbcoin is opened/an action is performed directly vs. click somewhere else -> walk there. I don't see any difference here.

Good point!

Re: The Danger of Verb Coins!
« Reply #17 on: 26 Jun 2018, 21:01 »
That's why when I wrote "That Damn Dog" I added a timer and if the player does not right click after some time has passed I show a message box with "Did you know? You can right click on stuff". No idea if that worked, though.

What an interesting idea! I'll probably implement that.

I suppose one could force players to LOOK before INTERACTing, whether they want to or not -- by interpreting every first click on any interesting thing as a LOOK action and every subsequent click on it as INTERACT/TALK/PICKUP/COMBINE action. To make this work, you could introduce a property "EXAMINED" for characters, objects and hotspots. The on_mouse_click event would first read out this property and then set it to 1. Afterwards, it would trigger the LOOK event if the property had been 0 beforehand, or else the INTERACT event.

Thus you would only need the left button for both LOOK and INTERACT/TALK/PICKUP/COMBINE. So the right button could open/close the inventory GUI. That gui could contain the buttons for loading, saving, quitting, too.

Very minimal - I've thought about it several times. But I didn't follow through so far, because I feared that this might dumb down the game experience too much.

EDIT: Come to think of it, the two ideas could be fruitfully combined. Set a right-click timer at the start of the game. If it runs out and the game engine finds out that here's a player that won't use the LOOK action - well, it won't say a word about it and switch to forced look-before-interact mode silently for the rest of the game. ;)
« Last Edit: 26 Jun 2018, 21:08 by fernewelten »

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Re: The Danger of Verb Coins!
« Reply #18 on: 26 Jun 2018, 21:15 »
I say theoretically, though, because I don't recall seeing any adventure game that actually has a fully dynamic context menu.
I attempted to do one last month. It didn't go too far because I lacked the scripting knowledge to do so. It was just text used as objects that appeared near the hotspot that was clicked on. It was clunky and would have caused issues if implemented in more than one room.

Re: The Danger of Verb Coins!
« Reply #19 on: 26 Jun 2018, 23:08 »
I suppose one could force players to LOOK before INTERACTing,

That would probably be the worst idea. I can see players clicking on something, receiving a 'look at' response and simply not checking whether there's another action they can perform. Then proceed to wander around aimlessly stuck, because they won't think to click on something again for 'interact', instead thinking they've already interacted with that hotspot.